Until Jan. 28, when UC President Mark Yudof sent a letter to all chancellors asking them to “take whatever temporary measures are needed to ensure 2008-09 Cal Grant recipients … receive funding,” it was unclear whether the grants would actually be honored.
Yet, Christian Martinez breathed a sigh of relief when the UC Irvine financial aid Web site posted a short notice last week that stated, “The university is committed to insuring all Cal Grant recipients maintain access to these funds for spring quarter and we will be paying all Cal Grants as scheduled.”
The third-year international studies and political science double-major is “made of financial aid.” Cal Grants and other scholarships have allowed the honor student to pursue her education despite a lack of personal financial resources.
Martinez is not alone. A total of 37,317 UC students are expecting Cal Grants for the coming spring quarter. Cal Grants are provided by the state to supplement federal aid programs and can be used to pay for not only tuition and fees, but also for room and board, books and other college-related expenses.
California’s financial difficulties caused Controller John Chiang, California’s chief accountant, to warn that unless the legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger agreed on a balanced budget, the state would run out of money by late February. In an effort to keep this from happening, Chiang plans to delay $4 billion of state payments due in February, including $13 million for Cal Grants, for 30 days. This resulted in what Ricardo Vázquez, a spokesperson for the University Office of the President, called a “cash-flow problem” for the UCs.
Fortunately for Martinez and other Cal Grant recipients, it appears that, for spring quarter, each individual university will make up the difference caused by the delay. According to Vazquez, the decision will necessitate internal borrowing, but that the university wanted to ensure that “additional burdens are not placed on the student in times of economic hardship.”
Internal borrowing is only a temporary fix. Yudof warned in his letter that the “UC is not in a position to continue to advance UC funds for 2009-10 Cal Grant awards in the unlikely event that the state’s cash shortage problems were to persist.”
D’Artagnan Scorza, the UC student regent, agreed. The current solution, he said, is “not sustainable. We [the university] couldn’t afford to keep doing this.”
He went on to warn that students should not let this reprieve lull them into complacency.
“The state is running out of money,” Scorza said, “[and unless] the state solved its budget crisis, students will receive IOUs.”
The long-term future of Cal Grants remains unclear. Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2009-10 budget includes a series of cuts to the Cal Grant program. The office of Irvine Assemblyman Chick DeVore told the New University that, “In these difficult economic times with many Californians out of work, we must reduce government waste and review state spending priorities in health, education, welfare … all areas of the budget may see reductions, including, unfortunately, Cal Grants.”
Scorza called for students to get involved in the political process in order to let lawmakers know about the need for programs like the Cal Grant.
“[This crisis is] as serious as it gets, but if students lead the way, California can change the way it does business,” Scorza said.